Texas Football: Grading All 22 Starters from the Kansas Game
Pretty was the last thing that was said about Texas' (6-2, 3-2) 21-17 win over Kansas (1-6, 0-5), but the victory secured bowl eligibility for the Longhorns.
In a game that flashed the consistent issues we have seen all season long, there were concerns all across the board from performance to coaching to play-calling.
As the Longhorns prepare for their final four games of the season, getting the most out of the team with still a strong bowl selection up for grabs is paramount for the continued development of the program.
The report card is in. Here is the grade report for all 22 Texas starters.
Quarterback: David Ash
One glance at the box score and it shows that David Ash struggled throughout most of the game.
Finishing with 8-of-16 completions for 63 yards and two interceptions is a far cry from the clean and efficient Ash from recent weeks, and getting the boot for Case McCoy, who led Texas to a come-from-behind win, in the fourth quarter was a telling sign that Ash had a rough outing.
The short checks and screens that Ash had been converting with consistency escaped his focus Saturday, as more than a few times the sophomore threw into crowded areas.
Concerns over a quarterback controversy started brewing the minute McCoy began warming up, but Texas can hardly be ready to throw away eight games' worth of Ash's reps and start all over with the junior McCoy.
At the end of the day, though, Ash's management of the offense and his decisions created more setbacks than progress.
RB: Johnathan Gray
The true freshman Johnathan Gray, a week removed from his first career touchdown for Texas, hit another milestone Saturday, topping 100 yards for the first time.
His 18 carries for 111 yards, 31 of which came on Texas' first offensive play, were constant production throughout the day. Gray's performance far outshined that of sophomore pounder Joe Bergeron, and until Malcolm Brown returns from injury, it could be Gray who continues to take the featured snaps for the Texas offense.
Gray has consistently looked shifty, confident and patient in his runs, a combination of qualities that is hard to find in a first-year player.
The importance of Gray in Brown's absence cannot be understated, and there could be plenty of pressure on the youngster in Texas' final four games of the year.
OL: Josh Cochran, Trey Hopkins, Dom Espinosa, Mason Walters, Luke Poehlmann
Group Grade: B-
On a day when the Texas offense really did not establish a noticeable rhythm at all, the Longhorns' offensive line performed strongly in the run game, paving the way for 211 net rushing yards and a six yards-per-carry average.
However, apart from only a couple of drives, Texas still failed to deliver that physical dominance that likely is necessary to contend for conference championships and strike fear in opposing defenses.
The ground game is very much the strength of the Longhorns offense, and the athleticism and movement up front from guys like Mason Walters and Trey Hopkins enable the flow of the running attack.
TE: D.J. Grant
How do you properly evaluate a guy playing a position that, for the most part, has been inconsistent at best for the Longhorns?
D.J. Grant finished with a single reception for a single yard, but that one scoring catch was the difference between a win and a loss for the Longhorns.
Simply, if the wide-open Grant drops the floating pass in the end zone, Texas could be kicking itself. But at the end of the day, the senior converted with confidence and finalized a win against one of the conference's worst programs.
WR: Mike Davis, Marquise Goodwin and Jaxon Shipley
Drops continued to plague some of the Texas receivers, but in a performance that really limited the passing opportunities, the three starting pass-catchers made the most of their touches.
But most of all, the willingness to block for a strong running game has made all of these receivers more whole.
Junior Mike Davis had some signature drops last week, but with four more catches for 59 yards against the Jayhawks, Davis made some amends.
Most notably, his 39-yard reception late in the fourth quarter helped set up Texas' decisive score.
Marquise Goodwin did not record a catch, but his two touches may have been the two most important plays of the game. A 41-yard scamper preceded his 11-yard touchdown run, part of a strong series of plays that exaggerated Texas' strength on the ground.
After posting just three touches last weekend, Jaxon Shipley made a much stronger presence against Kansas.
Shipley led all receivers with six catches for 66 yards, but an 18-yard reception on a 4th-and-6 on Texas' final series proved to be one of the plays of the game.
DT: Desmond Jackson and Chris Whaley
Desmond Jackson did not record a tackle against Kansas, and although he was disruptive at times, he continues to be part of an interior defensive line that has struggled to kill the run.
Chris Whaley, too, did not post a tackle against the Jayhawks, but the former running back has consistently influenced plays in the backfield more often than most.
Ashton Dorsey put in the best outing of the group, but there are few who stick out as consistent performers at a position that has a ton of bodies in the rotation.
Overall, Jackson and Whaley were among a unit that was weak at the point of attack and gave up 234 net rushing yards.
DE: Alex Okafor and Cedric Reed
Senior Alex Okafor put in another strong performance, finishing with 13 tackles, one for loss and forcing a fumble.
Without his junior counterpart Jackson Jeffcoat, the Jayhawks really tried to stay away from Okafor's side, registering plenty of big runs to Texas' weaker edge.
Nevertheless, Okafor continues to be an anchor to a defense that is flush with talent but severely lacking in execution and discipline.
Cedric Reed replaced Reggie Wilson, who replaced Jackson Jeffcoat last week, but hardly put up the kind of performance that breeds too much confidence moving forward.
Reed did post three tackles, but he was very much a non-factor in stopping a relentless Kansas rushing game.
LB: Demarco Cobbs, Steve Edmond, Kendall Thompson
The linebackers have struggled this season, an understatement prolonged by the absence of Jordan Hicks to a nagging hip injury.
Demarco Cobbs is still the undersized linebacker with explosive speed, but in lacking the finishing ability that could create a bigger buzz about him, Cobbs leaves plenty to be desired.
His lone tackle hardly looks good against a team that ran the ball 56 times. Cobbs could have made a strong impression early with a good tackle in the backfield, but a bad angle led to a missed opportunity.
Sophomore Steve Edmond probably put in the strongest game of the group, but he is still very far from coming into his own at the featured middle linebacker at Texas.
Edmond put up six tackles on the day and showed some minor improvements in filling in the gaps against the run.
Kendall Thompson, who has slid into Jordan Hicks' role, has looked promising, but is no Hicks replacement.
The sophomore recorded seven tackles to better Edmond, and Thompson is slowly building some confidence in a unit aching for playmakers.
CB: Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom
Quandre Diggs played a mixed game, picking up two tackles for loss, including a sack on Kansas' first offensive series.
But against a Kansas offense that threw the ball just nine times, Diggs was caught out of position a few times allowing the Jayhawks to extend drives.
Diggs has struggled against the bigger receivers he has faced, but there is no denying his physicality on defense.
Carrington Byndom had a quieter night than Diggs, and in this case, a better overall performance.
The junior posted three tackles, one for loss, but still looks far away from the shutdown corner he was just a season ago.
S: Kenny Vaccaro and Adrian Phillips
Senior Kenny Vaccaro posted a strong outing, recording 10 tackles with one for loss.
His presence in the running game is just as strong, although like the rest of the back seven, Vaccaro has succumbed to the same tackling issues.
Adrian Phillips was neither here nor there, which has been somewhat better than his usual offerings.
His two tackles on the day is nothing impressive, but at the same time, Phillips was never in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.
The sophomore, who was on watch for a breakout season, has performed far below expectations, but in replacing Blake Gideon, a player who started 52 games for the Longhorns, the shoes are might spacious.